Predictions for content marketing in 2018

January 8th, 2018

So we are into the second week of January 2018, and while your New Year’s Eve hangover ought to be a distant memory the resolutions you probably now regret making should just about still be intact.

Now then is as good a time as any to look forward to what 2018 is likely to bring to the content marketing world.

As technology lovers will know this week sees Las Vegas host the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the biggest showcase of gadgets, goodies and general tech on the planet. So we will look in more depth about how technology will change content in the coming year after that event.

For now though here are ten predictions as to how things will evolve in the coming twelve months.

1. Diversification of content channels

I think 2018 could see brands become more experimental in the platforms they use. Questions about the future of Facebook and the effectiveness of Snapchat could spark forays into Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, and a reconsideration of the merits of audio content sparked by the growth of the smart speaker market.

2. Brands as content companies

This has been a process which has been ongoing for several years now with the likes of Red Bull becoming known as much for the videos they produce and their content-driven relationships, as for their core products. I think 2018 will see some brands take up the slack possibly caused by the retrenchment of brands like BuzzFeed and Vice Media –  both of whom have undergone difficult times recently – and we may even see some companies develop content portals that become profit centres.

3. Diversification of content teams

I think that 2018 will see brands take another look at their content teams. Many are at the start of their journey having employed a few journalists, bloggers and social media experts. This year could see more Chief Content Officers arriving at UK brands, along with specialists in video and image creatives to help fulfill the twin key requirements of strategy and visual content.

4. Closer relationships with ecommerce

This is already happening in the wider publishing world with companies like Dennis Publishing developing car sales as a key part of its content offering, and Business Insider creating Insider Picks as an innovative way of attracting affiliate revenue. I have a feeling brands won’t be immune to this trend, and we will see more brands experimenting with using content as the handmaiden of ecommerce.

5. Social issues come to the fore

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Last year several brands begin to incorporate social issues in to the content and the advertising they produced. Some did this in a very cliched and cack handed way, like Pepsi, but others have been more subtle in championing gender equality and sexual rights issues. I think we will see progressive brands look to differentiate themselves from their rivals by becoming more vocal about social issues in 2018.

6. Changing relationships with Facebook

Facebook’s exec team is currently under a lot of pressure as they seek to address criticism ranging from political manipulation through to online bullying and abuse. In a handful of countries the company is splitting feeds so that a person’s friends posts appear on the main feed and posts from other organisations appear in another. It is difficult to know quite which direction Facebook will head in 2018, but I wonder if the uncertainty will inspire some brands to look to alternative ways of communicating those message via content.

7. Concerns about legislation

In May the EU will introduce the General Data Protection Regulation better known as GDPR which will impact on the way that brands harvest and manage data about their customers. That’s not be the end of the story as also being considered are ePrivacy changes which if enacted  could change the processing of any kind of tracking (e.g. cookies) in all digital businesses drastically. It could be a game changer for the global digital ad industry and the way that brands interact with consumers.

8. Quality of content is going to be central

I think 2018 could be the year in which the quality of the content that brands produce becomes their key priority rather than the quantity. The standard of the winners at the CMA awards reflects this, and in a world where so much content is competing for consumer eyeballs, this is set to continue into 2018 and beyond. It may mean less content and instead a concentration on higher ticket more immersive editorial like longer posts, extended video and podcasts.

9. ICOs will come to content marketing

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Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are the big new thing in startup finance and I think that content marketers will become familiar with them in 2018 for two reasons. Firstly, one of the key ways that ICOs are successful is that companies that are attempting to raise money in this way require quality content. And in the same way that great content powers crowdfunded campaigns, so they will with ICOs. Secondly, we will see some content  startups use ICOs to rise money, perhaps changing the way that media companies and agencies begin and develop.

10. Personalisation of content

The jury is still out on the role of bots in content marketing, but 2018 is bound to see more companies experiment with them, and also harness Artificial Intelligence to predict reader responses and serve them with appropriate content.

Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA

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